What the Bible Looks Like When Compared to Fantasy Fiction

Jacob's Ladder by William Blake (c. 1800, British Museum, London). IMG: Wikipedia.

Jacob’s Ladder by William Blake (c. 1800, British Museum, London). IMG: Wikipedia.

While I know that comparing the Bible to fantasy fiction is not likely to settle well with about 28 percent of Americans, I did exactly that for On Faith this week.

In part, it was to show the power of reader response. If a person wants to know just how much we bring to our reading of any text, try reading the Bible as fantasy fiction. A reader might be a devout Christian, but still be surprised at how easily it can be seen in that light.

A second point, though not raised in the article itself, is this: if you want to understand why someone is not convinced that the Bible is historical or scientific, just give yourself enough time to read it from the perspective of fantasy. You might discover why many mainline Christians are not inerrantists, or why atheists, agnostics, and skeptics can’t embrace the Bible as divine. In other words, it can be a window into another perspective.

When I was a kid, my Sunday school teacher insisted that — because Eve was created from the rib of Adam (Genesis 2:21-22) — all men had one rib less than women. This extra-biblical idea has a long history, especially given that until the fourteenth century, dissected bodies were mostly men. Anatomists like Andreas Vesalius (1514-64) called the extra-rib doctrine “simply ridiculous” and proved his point by simply counting ribs.

It is ridiculous — though not any more unusual than some stuff that actually is in the Bible. Take Jacob’s understanding of sexual reproduction: he thought that showing stripes to goats while mating would produce striped offspring (Genesis 30:31-43).

I’m often struck by the exotic world of the Bible; it operates by a completely different set of laws from our own. Debates about its scientific accuracy will rage on, but Bible readers might appreciate the text more if they let it sit on the shelves next to all their favorite fantasy fiction.

Here are six ways the Bible fits right in with the fantasy genre….read the full story at On Faith….

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